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Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)


The epidemic began in the late 1970s and early 1980s in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Western Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand. In the late 1980s, the epidemic continued to spread to North Africa and the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific. Only in the late 1990s did the epidemic spread significantly to Eastern Europe and Central Asia. (See Table 1 for a summary of HIV/AIDS statistics and features, including the primary mode(s) of transmission in each region.) Since 1981, the AIDS pandemic has brought sexually transmitted diseases to the center of medical TABLE 1

HIV/AIDS statistics and features
Region Main mode(s) of transmission* for adults # living with HIV/AIDS Epidemic started
*Hetero (heterosexual transmission), IDU (transmission through intravenous drug use), MSM (sexual transmission among men who have sex with men).
#The proportion of adults (15 to 49 years of age) living with HIV/AIDS.
Australia & New Zealand MSM Late 1970s – Early 1980s
Caribbean hetero, MSM Late 1970s – Early 1980s
East Asia & Pacific IDU, hetero, MSM Late 1980s
Eastern Europe & Central Asia IDU Early 1990s
Latin America MSM, IDU, hetero Late 1970s – Early 1980s
North Africa & Middle East hetero, IDU Late 1980s
North America MSM, IDU, hetero Late 1970s – Early 1980s
South & South-East Asia hetero, IDU Late 1980s
Sub-Saharan Africa hetero Late 1970s – Early 1980s

and social consciousness. Indeed, "not since the world-wide pandemic of swine influenza in 1918 have we faced a public health emergency of such tragic magnitude" (Brandt 1988, p. 151).

In response to this mysterious ailment, articles began to appear in newspapers and magazines in the United States that described an illness unofficially identified as gay-related immunodeficiency (GRID). As early as 1982, however, it became clear to the researchers at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), that the disease was not exclusively a gay syndrome. Other groups began to get the disease: heterosexuals from sub-Saharan Africa, Haitians, prostitutes, and women who had sex with bisexual males (Tebble 1986).

The human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLVIII) was isolated as the retrovirus responsible for causing AIDS in 1984 (Getzel 1992; Levenson 1996). A retrovirus is a type of virus that replicates mutant strains, and then infects other cells (Gant 1998). "The virus, called HTLV-III by the Americans and LAV by the French—would eventually be designated as HIV" (Bethel 1995, p. 69). HIV-I (the most common type found worldwide) and HIV-II (found mostly in West Africa), both responsible for AIDS, are rapid replicators. The newer strains of HIV that were identified in the late 1990s are stronger and more resistant to medications.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Health IssuesAcquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) - History, Modes Of Transmission, Testing And Diagnosis, Symptoms, Treatment, Psychosocial Issues, Global Implications